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Care-Taking and Conflict

It is likely that we are more vulnerable, more insecure and more reactive when we are not taking care of ourselves. Our resilience suffers and we interact in ways that serve us poorly. It is also likely that we initiate a conflict or react unproductively when we perceive a slight – even when one is not intended. As a consequence, our health and well-being suffer even more under such circumstances.

Lack of sleep, stress, worry, depression, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, sickness, relationship troubles and other possible conditions contribute to poor outcomes, ill-managed interactions and unpredictable responses.

To consider how insufficient care-taking contributed to a conflict in your life, it will help to bring to mind a situation in which you overreacted and interacted in ways that were destructive (or, at least, unproductive):

What started the dispute, from what you recall?

What was it about?

How did you react that you know did not serve you well?

What was going on for you – in your life – that might have adversely contributed to the conflict dynamic?

What else might have added to your negative reaction?

What did you realize – before or after the dispute erupted – that was also a signal of things generally being amiss in your life?

When you think about this situation now, what could you have said or done differently?

What mindset did you need to be able to do so?

What different outcome might have resulted (in response to your answers to the above two questions)?

What did you learn from your reaction in this dispute in terms of how your well-being influences your reactions?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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What it Takes to be Conflict Masterful

How we define conflict mastery and the characteristics needed to be and be seen as such varies. In general, this term refers to being comfortable engaging in conflict – realizing it is an inevitable and normal part of our lives. It is also about distinguishing necessary from unnecessary conflict and being aware of ourselves and who we are when provoked or provoking others.

Conflict mastery also means being able to regulate our emotions, to gain perspective on the situation and the other person, to be empathetic, to be attuned to the dynamic at play, to be able to stand back from the situation and reflect, and to take responsibility for our contribution. These and other ways of considering the meaning of conflict mastery provide us with benchmarks to gauge what we want to strive for to be better able to engage in and manage situations that cause us and others tension.

For this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog, the objective is to consider what conflict mastery means to you.

What, for you, are the main ingredients of conflict mastery, other than those listed above?

When you are conflict masterful, how do you see yourself?

How might others see you when you are conflict masterful that you have not included in your previous answer?

Which references in the above paragraphs (before the questions) most resonate about your current skills in conflict?

Which references in the above paragraphs indicate characteristics you would like to develop/improve?

What conflict masterful traits have you observed in others that you especially admire that you have not mentioned yet?

When you are being less than masterful at conflict, what is your default?

How do you currently show up when it comes to your default?

How will you improve your skills at engaging in conflict?

When you improve your conflict mastery skills, what do you anticipate will be different in your interactions?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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Finding Support for Our Perceptions

It seems that, in some cases, once we are provoked and perceive someone’s motives negatively, it is difficult to disabuse ourselves of such perceptions. We might, then, interpret ongoing interactions through that lens and continue to build a case – attributing bad intent to her or his words and actions on an ongoing basis.

When this happens, our assumptions can taint the relationship to the extent that the other person has little to no chance of redeeming herself or himself. We have, for all intents and purposes, made up our minds and we continue to find support for our initial perceptions.

It is an interesting phenomenon and one that does not serve us well. We are not obligated to like everyone, of course. However, in some cases our perceptions that we grow ourselves can be unnecessarily hurtful to the other person and to ourselves.

If there is someone in your life about whom you have negative perceptions and want to explore the validity of your thinking and feeling about them, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites your reflections.

What started your negative perception about the other person?

What specifically does she or he do that continues to support your initial perceptions in your ongoing interactions with her or him?

What do you think this person’s motives are for offending you?

What do you know for sure about why she or he acts/interacts that way (those ways)?

What don’t you know about why she or he acts/interacts the way you described?

If the person’s intent is not what you think it is, what are other possibilities?

What doesn’t this person know about your impressions of her or him?

If you told her or him what you are perceiving, what could she or he say that might change your mind?

What would that mean for you and the relationship?

If there’s nothing she or he could say or do to redeem herself or himself, what difference does that make, if any, in your interactions with her or him?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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Letting Conflict Define Us

There are times we get so caught up in a dispute that we become defined by it. In other words, our life focuses on being in conflict and the associated emotions and dynamics, such that our scope of life is limited. We view everything around us in negative terms. Pessimism, negativity, hopelessness, sadness, despair, anger and other feelings prevail.

It’s not an easy (or straightforward) task to consider why some disputes take over our being at these times and why or how we let certain people or situations overwhelm us. Being in such states of heart and mind in which we are attached to a conflict often alienates others, takes up energy and time (ours and others), and otherwise consumes us.

Why does this occur? It may be because the other person has deeply undermined something important to us; she or he may have hurt us to our core by something said or done; our sense of security, what we value and believe is true might feel threatened; we might perceive or experience that our safety is at risk; and other reasons knock us off balance as to be totally enveloped by being wronged.

The impact of such reactions to the other person and the conflict situation is dramatic – not only for us. Those around us also become involved in various ways and often, against their desire to be part of the toxicity ailing us. That is, sympathy and empathy may diminish and support we counted on might get lost.

If you have found yourself defined by a conflict, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog might be helpful to explore.

What is the conflict about?

In what ways have you become defined by it?

What specific definition might you use to describe yourself?

What feelings are you experiencing?

How might others observing/hearing you talk about the conflict define you?

What keeps you most attached to this conflict?

What might it take for you to become less attached to this conflict?

How will you define yourself when you are no longer attached to the conflict?

What feelings will describe you, then?

What difference in what and how you will be is the most compelling reason to let go of the conflict? What is most compelling about staying attached to it?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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Being Sorry

Sometimes we are sorry about what we said in a conflict and say so. Sometimes we are not sorry but say we are anyway. Sometimes we are quick to express regret and sometimes we are slow. Sometimes asking for forgiveness is experienced as too soon and sometimes too late.

Like many other aspects of being in conflict, there is no rulebook. Whether we ask for forgiveness, express regret or forgive (or not) varies and depends on the person, the interaction, the gravity of hurt we experience, the needs and values undermined, and so on.

What often precludes moving on and getting past a conflict is not being ready to forgive or express regret, not accepting that the other person means she or he is sorry, not being sorry, not wanting to forgive, not viewing the other person’s words as forgivable and so on.

For this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog, consider firstly a situation in which you were not sorry for what you said and another in which you said you were sorry though you did not mean it.

What is the situation in which you are not sorry for what you said?

What did you say that you are not sorry about?

What compelled you to say what you did?

What difference does it make to you that you are not sorry?

What difference does it make to the other person that you are not sorry?

Considering a situation in which you said you are sorry and didn’t mean it (though it might be the same one), what occurred in that interaction?

What did you apologize for that you didn’t mean?

Why do you supposed you apologized?

What is bothering you most about saying you are sorry when you are not?

What difference does it make that you apologized and didn’t mean it?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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